Siege of Minas Tirith, The
18. A Battle Won
battle in the openess of the Pelennor fields to twisty
City streets with enemies popping unexpectedly out of
alleys and from behind walls.
The Orcs and other creatures seemed readier to run
than fight but the dark Men in their barbaric
trappings were another story. Yet at last the moment
came when there were no more enemies left, at least
"Is it over?" he asked the Man beside him.
He grimaced. "It is indeed, Little Master."
Pippin looked at the dead Orcs and Men and horses
scatted thickly over the ground, and at the huge grey
bodies of the fallen Oliphants, and felt a little
"That's good." then "We did win didn't we?"
"Oh yes." the Man looked grimly around, added
quietly. "The only thing worse than a battle won is a
battle lost. And sometimes it can be hard to tell the
Pippin could well believe that. "Thank you for
looking after me." he said politely.
The Man grinned down at him. "Light duty!" he
answered. "Captain Hurin and Mithrandir underestimated
you sadly, Master Peregrin."
Pippin blinked, then caught his drift and blushed.
"Boromir taught us how to fight."
"You are a credit to him." The Man said warmly.
Walking slowly back towards the City they ran
across Gandalf, afoot with Shadowfax following,
talking earnestly to Lord Hurin, Prince Imrahil and
Lord Eomer, also dismounted and leading their tired
"Ah, there you are, Peregrin." the wizard greeted
The Man saluted the Captains and went off but
Pippin fell in beside Gandalf. "Have you seen old
Strider or any of the others yes?" he asked.
The wizard simply pointed ahead and sure enough
there was Strider, with Gimli and Legolas and a number
of tall, grey cloaked Men around him, facing what
looked alarmingly like a crowd of ghosts, all green
glowing and skeletal.
The tallest of them said; "Release us!"
"Bad idea." Gimli put in quickly. Strider and the
ghost both looked at him. "Very handy in a tight spot,
these lads, despite the fact they're dead."
"You gave us your word!" said the ghost to Strider.
"I hold your oath fulfilled." he answered gently.
"Go, be at peace."
The phantom seemed to close his eyes and Pippin
could have sworn there was look of almost blissful
relief on his face as he and the whole army of dead,
rippled and blew away.
Strider gave Gimli one of his dark looks. So did
Legolas and the Men in grey. The Dwarf shrugged, a
little embarrassed. "All right, I'm sorry. But they
surely did come in handy."
The Ranger sighed, shook his head, turned away and
saw Gandalf, Pippin and the rest.
The wizard bowed. For a moment Pippin just stared
at him in astonishment, then he remembered who Strider
really was and bowed too, feeling a little silly.
He wasn't sure Strider liked it either. He just
looked at them, tired and a little sad, inclined his
head slightly in return then smiled a welcome that
warmed the Hobbit clear through. "Hello, Pippin, I'm
glad to see you safe and whole." his eyes moved past
him to the Gondor Men. "Hurin?"
The Captain essayed a smile but there were tears in
his eyes. "Late is better than never, Dunadan," he
choked, "but try not to cut it quite so fine next
Strider laughed and moved to embrace him. "I hope
there will not be a next time, Hurinya." He released
the Captain and turned to Imrahil. "Well met, Prince,
it has been many years."
Pippin saw the Man swallow hard before he answered.
"Too many long years, my Lord and King. You return to
us in an dark hour. I would your City were in a state
to welcome you as you deserve."
Strider shook his head. "The City and the realm has
rested in the charge of the Stewards for many long
years. I will not enter in, nor make any claim, until
it be seen whether we or Mordor shall prevail."
Hurin and Eomer both frowned but Imrahil nodded
unhappy agreement. "It may be wiser so. I fear
Denethor will not welcome you, my Lord."
Pippin bit his lip trying to push back the memory
the pyre and that last terrible cry.
"Denethor is dead," Gandalf said heavily, "by his
own hand, and his house lies in ashes."
All four Men stared at him in horror and dismay,
then Hurin, Imrahil and Eomer looked at Aragorn. "With
Faramir sore wounded Gondor is left leaderless," said
the Prince. "your City needs you my King."
But Strider shook his head again. "I have no mind
for strife with any but our common Enemy. For now I
will remain but the Captain of the Rangers of Arnor.
Hurin, you are next in line -"
"Not I!" the Captain said vehemently. "My house has
stood between the true King and the throne long
Strider gave him one of his looks but Hurin stood
firm, all but glaring back. Finally the Ranger sighed.
"Imrahil then." and as the other Man opened his mouth
to protest, "The people need a leader, better one they
know than a stranger."
"You are no stranger, my Lord," said the Prince,
"but I will do as you wish."
"Thank you." Strider said, and seemed really
Gandalf and Hurin both looked less then pleased and
Eomer bewildered. Pippin impatiently dismissed the
whole confusing matter as a problem for the Great Folk
to deal with and no concern of his. He took the chance
to ask about something that was; "Where is Merry,
"We left him with King Theoden." the Ranger replied
and looked at Eomer.
The Rohirrim knelt down before the Hobbit,
frightening Pippin with his somber face. "Theoden King
commanded Master Meriadoc to remain behind in Edoras,
but one of my Riders found this lying near my uncle's
body." and he held out a blackened piece of metal
which it took Pippin some moments to recognize as the
hilt of Merry's sword.
He took it with trembling hands. "But he wasn't
there himself, so he must be all right, musn't he?" he
Gandalf put a consoling hand on his shoulder. "We
will look for him."
Eomer led them back to the place where his uncle
had fallen. Theoden's white horse lay there dead and
near it a fell beast with its head hewn from its long
neck. Beside the beast was a tangle of black robes and
a few twisted bits of metal.
The search party of two kings, a prince, a wizard,
a Hobbit squire and a dozen or so Rangers fanned out
in all directions. Pippin walked slowly, looking
carefully at the many dead, feeling sick and scared.
*Merry's all right.* he told himself desperately,
"Why shouldn't he be? You're all right and he's got
twice your sense.* Then he saw a bare, hairy foot
sticking out from beneath the voluminous black robes
of a Southron warrior.
He rolled the Man's body aside as if it were a
feather, heart pounding. There was blood on Merry's
pale face, his eyes were closed and his hand cold to
the touch. "Merry! Merry, it's me." he sobbed. "It's
His cousin's eyes opened and he tried to smile. "I
knew you'd find me." he whispered.
Pippin sobbed again in relief. "Yes."
"Are you going to bury me?" Merry asked.
"No, Merry." he choked. "I'm going to look after
you." he saw his cousin's grey cloak lying nearby and
pulled it over him, then raised his voice in a shout.
"Gandalf! Strider! I've found him, come quick!"
They were there almost at once, the other Men
crowding behind. Strider knelt down beside Merry and
uncovered him searching for wounds.
"He's gone all cold, like Frodo after Weathertop,"
Pippin told him. "What does it mean?"
"That your cousin has done a deed beyond the power
of the greatest warrior of Men." Gandalf answered
"It was Eowyn." Merry whispered. "She did it, I
just helped a little." the name seemed to rouse him.
"Eowyn! the King, they need help, Strider -"
"They have been seen to." the Ranger assured him
gently, face grave with concern. "Now it's your turn,
Merry." he lifted the Hobbit in his arms. "We must get
him to the City."
And so the King entered Minas Tirith on foot with
an injured Hobbit in his arms, and passed unheralded
and unrecognized up the six circles to the Houses of
Hurin, Eomer and Imrahil however were recognized
and heartily cheered by the people crowding the ruined
streets. They made their way through the tumult and
mounted to the Citadel where they found only three
Fountain guards on duty and the doors of the Hall
standing open. The Men exchanged puzzled and slightly
apprehensive looks before going inside, slightly
fearful of what they might find after all the evil
fortunes of the day.
Two biers stood before the empty throne. The body
of King Theoden lay in state upon that to the left,
his bed draped with the green and white colors of
Rohan and his body covered to the breast by a
magnificent cloth of gold coverlet. His hands were
folded on the hilt of his unsheathed sword and his
shield was at his feet. Candles burned in many
branched holders at the four corners of his bier, and
an honor guard of knights of both Rohan and Gondor
stood with bowed heads and spears reversed around it.
The King's herald held his banner at his head and two
Women, tall and darkly beautiful but no longer young,
stood quietly at his feet gazing sadly at his peaceful
They turned as the Men entered and Eomer recognized
them. "Aunt Elfflaed, Aunt Flaeda." He embraced
Theoden's sisters, fiercely glad there had been
kinswomen at hand to do what was needful for him and
that he had not been left to the ministrations of
strangers, however kind.
Elfflaed kissed her nephew then pushed him back to
armslength and said solemnly; "Westu Eomer hal! Hail
King of the Mark."
His eyes filled with tears. "It wasn't meant to be
like this." he said almost rebeliously: "My uncle
should have lived many more years and Theodred
followed him. And I would have gladly served both all
the days of my life!"
But now not only was he King, but the last of the
House of Eorl. He looked at the other bier and saw
with surprise that it held the body of a dark Dunedain
lord, one of the kinsmen who had come to Aragorn at
Dunharrow. "Where is Eowyn?" he demanded of his aunt.
"She should be lying here beside our uncle and in no
less honor. What have they done with her?"
The Lord Aragorn's Elvish lady stood by the
Dunadan's bier. "Eowyn isn't dead, Eomer." she told
him gently. "She has been taken to the Houses of
Healing." He could only stare at her, choked by sudden
hope - and renewed fear. She held out her hand to him.
"Come, we will go to her."
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